Home > Church Commentary, Theology > Women as pastors?

Women as pastors?

Men and women are seen as equal in the church in terms of value. Both have equal access to the blessings of salvation.

However, when it comes to being an elder (pastor) or teacher in the church, what does the New Testament teach us?

For this we need to look at some pertinent passages.

1 Tim 2:11-14

[11] A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. [12] But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. [13] For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. [14] And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

This passage discusses the issue of women as elders in the church most directly.

We know the setting of this epistle to Timothy from 1 Tim 3:15,

I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

It was important for Paul to let Timothy know how things should be done "in the household of God," especially since he wanted Timothy to "remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines" (1 Tim 1:3). Some in the church at Ephesus departed from true doctrine and incorporated false teaching in their doctrine. However, Paul tells us little to nothing about this false doctrine since he knew that Timothy was familiar with the issue at hand. Therefore, we need to be careful not to make too much of the nature of this false doctrine in the church at Ephesus and how it influenced women there.

We will, then, take a cautious approach to this matter. In our exegesis, we will use only those aspects of the false teaching that may be clearly inferred from the pastoral epistles and related New Testament passages to shed light on the text. Some of the aspects specifically relevant to 1 Timothy 2:11-15 are:

1. The false teachers sowed dissension and were preoccupied with trivialities (1 Timothy 1:4-6; 6:4-5; cf. 2 Timothy 2:14, 16-17, 23-24; Titus 1:10; 3:9-11).
2. The false teachers stressed asceticism as a means of spirituality. They taught abstinence from certain foods, from marriage, and probably sex generally (1 Timothy 4:1-3). In keeping with these ascetic tendencies, they may also have stressed physicaltraining as a means of spirituality (4:8).
3. The false teachers had persuaded many women to follow them in their doctrines (1 Timothy 5:15; 2 Timothy 3:6-7).
4. The false teachers were encouraging women to discard what we might call traditional female roles in favor of a more egalitarian approach to the relationships of men and women. This is not stated explicitly as a part of the false teachers’ platform anywhere in the pastoral epistles. [ 1]

We know that these false teachers encouraged women to abstain from marriage (1 Tim 4:3). To counter this, Paul instructs young widows to marry (1 Tim 4:14). Paul sees this issue in a very serious light "for some have already turned aside to follow Satan." (1 Tim 4:15)

It is because of these aberrant positions of the false teachers that Paul wrote "I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man." These are functions performed by elders, and so are specifically prohibited for women in the church. Naturally there are objections to this interpretation of this passage.

First, there are those who object with the rationale that this passage applies to a specific situation in the Ephesian church, where women most probably taught heresy, which Paul wrote against. This objection is in no way persuasive, since we do not have any indication in the text of 1 Timothy that women indeed taught heresy. In this case, when Paul writes, "I do not allow a woman," he means "not any woman." He did not say "certain" women in any way. He did not say that only women that teach heresy may not "teach or exercise authority over a man." What is Paul’s real reason for giving this prohibition? Paul’s reason is that "it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." This reason refers back to the order of creation. He does not deal with situational ethics here, but the way that God created all things. Paul refers to the order of creation before the fall, and also before the fall created a perversion of male and female roles.

A second objection is that women were not well educated in Paul’s time, and as a result could not qualify for the roles of elder and other church offices. The question to this objection is whether Paul even gave such a reason for his prohibition. Again, as in the previous objection, Paul’s reason is based on creation and its God-given order. When we look at the qualifications of an elder as written to Timothy and Titus, we can nowhere see that Paul made educational qualifications part of his qualifications of an elder. Formal training was not an issue at the time, as we can see when we look at several of the apostles. Several of them had no formal training (Ac 4:13).

The third objection is the fact that women were to "learn" (v11) itself implies that they would eventually teach. This may be true, but under the prohibitions of Paul, they may not "teach or exercise authority over a man." This, however, does not say anything concerning a woman teaching or having authority over other women or even children. On the other hand, is it correct to conclude that simply because someone learns he will eventually end up teaching too?

"Certainly if we mean by teaching an officially recognized activity of expositing and applying a section of Scripture, this is not the case. Neither do the texts cited by Spencer prove this. All Jewish men were encouraged to study the law; did they all become rabbis? Similarly, all Christians are encouraged to study the Scriptures; but Paul expressly limits "teaching" to a restricted number who have the gift of teaching (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:28-30). Of course, if we define teach in a broader sense–the communication of Christian truth through private conversation, family devotions, etc.–we may conclude that all Christians do indeed "teach." But this is not the kind of teaching Paul is talking about in this context. Neither does it seem to be what Spencer means, for her point is that this verse validates women as teachers even in positions of authority in the church. It is manifest, then, that the encouragement to women to learn gives no reason to think that they were also to be engaged in expositing and applying Biblical truth to men." [ 2]

The fact that Paul prohibits women from teaching or having authority over men–based on his reason of created order–even prohibits those women, therefore, who have been given permission by their husbands–a common charismatic practice–to hold such a position.

1 Cor 14:33b-36

[33b] For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,  [34] the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.  [35] If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. [36] Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? (1 Cor 14:33-36 ESV)

The difficulty that this passage poses is that Paul clearly allowed women to actually speak in the assembly.

But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head (1 Cor 11:5)

Many see the 1 Cor 14 passage as prohibiting women from speaking in the church altogether. This will contradict Paul in 1 Cor 11. Paul clearly allowed women to pray and prophesy in church, albeit with their own cultural restrictions.

What, then, does this passage restrict women from? The immediate context–apart from Paul having told us that praying and prophesying being allowed for women–instructs us that Paul’s limitation on women "speaking" has to do with the issue of evaluating prophecies given in the assembly.

"More broadly, a strong case can be made for the view that Paul refused to permit any woman to enjoy a church-recognized teaching authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11ff.), and the careful weighing of prophecies falls under that magisterial function." [ 3]

Paul, by prohibiting women from critiquing or evaluating prophecies in the assembly–"this would be a ruling or governing function with respect to the whole church" [4]–is concerned with the preservation of "male leadership in the teaching and governing of the church." [ 5]

1 Tim 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9

The Scripture texts can be read above at section 6.1.2.4 Qualifications of an elder.

Since we have already dealt with the qualifications of an elder, we would have noted that Paul explicitly notes the elder as a man by writing that he must be "the husband of one wife" (1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:6). Paul also writes that "he must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)" (1 Tim 3:4-5).

End Notes
1. Piper , John & Grudem, Wayne, editors, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,  paper by Douglas Moo, What does it mean not to teach or have authority over men? , Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, First Printing 1991, p177.

2. Moo , p180.

3. Piper , John & Grudem, Wayne, editors, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,  paper by D. A. Carson, “Silent in the churches”: on the role of women in 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36 , Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, First Printing 1991, p143.

4. Grudem , Wayne, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994, p939.

5. Grudem, p939.

Just thinking

 

Advertisements
  1. 2 June 2006 at 7:37 am

    And of course, you have this on great authority from God Himself?Or, did you read that on the internet, hmmm!?

  2. 1 June 2006 at 8:14 pm

    This may come as a shock, but Paul is proven to be a false apostle.He wasn’t ordained by christ (Mat 10) His conversion stories contradict (acts 22 and acts 26) Most horrifically, he taught contrary to Christ and it goes on.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: